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Mt. Pleasant gingerbread house is People's Choice

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Christine Barnhart | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Keith Bandy, proprietor of Gorky's Smokin Grill in Mt. Pleasant, earned the People's Choice Award of the inaugural Mt. Pleasant Borough Gingerbread House Tour Display & Competition with his entry titled 'Gorky's Gingerbread House.'

The proprietor of Gorky's Smokin' Grill in Mt. Pleasant recently earned the People's Choice Award for the inaugural Mt. Pleasant Borough Gingerbread House Tour Display & Competition.

The entry — “Gorky's Gingerbread House” — won based on votes cast at ballot boxes set up at the restaurant and various other local businesses where a total of 28 houses were on display.

“That was a heck of a surprise,” said Keith Bandy, the restaurant's owner and the maker of the award-winning house. “It was a thrill. I didn't expect at all to win, so I was tickled.”

Event proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project — a Jacksonville, Fla.-based organization founded to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members.

“To date we have raised $125 for Wounded Warrior,” said East Huntingdon's Christine Barnhart, the event's organizer and wife of U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Brian Barnhart, commander of the Mt. Pleasant VFW Post 3368. “Congratulations to Gorky's for winning People's Choice.”

Barnhart added some perspective on what could have put the Gorky's creation over the top in the voting.

“A lot of people there enjoyed the house while they ate dinner there and voted then,” she said.

Bandy added that many of those who voted for the gingerbread house he made at his business said they were intent on seeing every other house prior to making a decision.

“They did the whole walking tour. They were like professional judges,” he said.

Minimum bids for the gingerbread houses were $25 and $100 for the recipient of the Dream House Award for best overall display, which went to Norvelt's Samantha Eyth, who created one called “Welcome to Gingerbread Land.”

The money raised for the Wounded Warrior Project came from three of the houses, which sold along with sales of T-shirts promoting the event and the project and donations, Barnhart said.

“I think, overall, it was a good turnout,” Barnhart said. Borough Manager Jeff Landy, who helped Barnhart coordinate the event, said that public participation met his expectations.

For the event's second annual go-around later this year, Landy said he would like to see more gingerbread houses entered to increase the chances of raising more money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Barnhart added that she might look into finding a more centralized spot to display the gingerbread houses for the next competition.

“It should be better; people will have a better understanding of what we're trying to do,” Landy said. “And you can always send checks to help support the Wounded Warrior Project regardless of if you bought a house or not.”

Barnhart said she concluded the event by mailing all participants a photograph of their houses and a letter thanking them for participating.

“I think everything went great, community was excited, and the businesses enjoyed displaying them.”

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or apanian@tribweb.com.

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